Sofa-surfing surge predicted amid youth homelessness crisis

Homelessness in Norwich is expected to surge - especially among young people, said Dan Mobbs of charity MAP 

Homelessness in Norwich is expected to surge - especially among young people, said Dan Mobbs of charity MAP - Credit: Submitted

The city is on the cusp of a homelessness crisis, according to experts, who have warned that droves of youths will be at the sharp end of a sofa-surfing surge.  

It comes after data revealed more than 66,000 people are expected to be homeless by 2024. 

However the majority of these people, according to housing charity Crisis and Heriot-Watt University, won’t be on the streets.

They will be hidden behind closed doors, sleeping on the sofas of friends, family and strangers. 

In Norwich a large portion of these are expected to be younger people who are still trying to claw back their lives after the pandemic.  

Their difficulties arise out of reduced quality work experience, increased housing costs and energy bills spiking.  

Dan Mobbs, chief executive of Mancroft Advice Project (MAP). PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Dan Mobbs, chief executive of Mancroft Advice Project (MAP). PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Dan Mobbs, chief executive of city-based young people's charity MAP, said: “The cost-of-living crisis has a big impact on young people who don’t even get the National Living Wage until they are 23.   

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“If young people need benefits, they receive £67.51 less on Universal Credit if they are under 25.  

“Young people coming to our drop-in at MAP often need food or help paying heating bills.   

“We are really worried about how this will affect the lives of a generation of young people who are only just starting out.” 

He was echoed by one young mum who is watching in terror as her bills creep up. 

Vikkie Rose, who is 26 and from Wymondham, said: “It’s really scary to think that parents like myself struggle to pay the bills as it is and then you have to find money for a food shop."

Vikkie Rose is worried that the bills going up will leave less money for food. 

Vikkie Rose is worried that the bills going up will leave less money for food. - Credit: Vikkie Rose

Worried about never having her own roof over her head, she added: "Prices just keep going up and up.

"I plan and budget for my meals and even freeze some so they go even further and try and save money that way. It doesn't always make enough of a difference though.

“Some months I struggle to pay the bills, my friends are too worried to turn their heating on.

"It's terrifying to look at my bills because I can't afford to fall behind. I don't have family in the area I can fall back on and I have a child to look after." 

In Norwich businesses like community interest Your Own Place are working hard to prevent homelessness early on.

Rebecca White, founder of the Johnson Place-based charity, said: “Many young people are using food banks and many social housing tenants are currently receiving notification of the 4.1pc rent increase. 

Rebecca White of Your Own Place. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Rebecca White of Your Own Place. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

“We expect worsening finances, horrific decisions made by people and families who are brilliant at budgeting but due to the pressure experiencing deteriorating mental health and homelessness, the best budgeter in the world can’t add things up. 

“Without the safety net of cash and connections the consequences are desperate for many."

And despite preventative support Bishopgate-based homeless shelter St Martins said it is already seeing a spike in demand.

The scheme is being delivered by St Martins Housing Trust. Pictured is chief executive Dr Jan Sheldo

The scheme is being delivered by St Martins Housing Trust. Pictured is chief executive Dr Jan Sheldon. Picture: St Martins - Credit: Archant

Dr Jan Sheldon, chief executive, said: “We are continually monitoring the changes in the cost of living, we know all too well that this will have an impact upon people who are just about managing. 

“Many of these people could be on the edge of homelessness and without the support they need they could end up on the streets.” 

St Martins also works within people's homes to manage their tenancies and learn how to budget.  

Dr Sheldon said: “The rising cost of living is affecting us all but some people have no reserves, no support and often no hope. 

“If people need our crisis services, we’re there for them and we’ll work with them for as long as it takes to get them back on their feet.” 

Meanwhile Oak Street based drug and alcohol recovery charity, the Matthew Project, added it was already seeing increased levels of poverty among young people. 

A spokeswoman said: “Poverty is one of the factors which leads to young people being exploited, including being coerced into criminal activity.”